'Vote no to fags': Outbreak of homophobic violence, vandalism

Swastikas and vile phrases such as "vote no to fags" have been scrawled on trains, and homes flying the rainbow flag have been attacked, in an outbreak of homophobic violence and vandalism accompanying the postal survey on same-sex marriage.

Tasmanian police have also laid charges over the alleged assault of a transgender teenager in Hobart on Friday, just a day after former prime minister Tony Abbott was headbutted by a self-proclaimed anarchist DJ in the same area.

The incidents further test Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's claim that "overwhelmingly, Australians are engaging in this debate respectfully", with six weeks to go until the deadline for survey forms to be received by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In Sydney, photos surfaced of obscene graffiti inside a train carriage, including swastikas and the phrases "vote no! to fags" and "faggots not welcome". The photos were uploaded to the Reddit website last week by a user who said they saw the "absolutely f--king disgusting" graffiti on a train journey to Circular Quay.

A Sydney Trains spokesman said the graffiti was reported five days ago and "immediately removed".

Queensland police are also investigating an apparent vandalism spree in South Brisbane targeting homes flying the rainbow flag. In one incident late on Sunday night, large rocks were thrown into the home of 22-year-old Olivia Hill, who had affixed "yes" banners and rainbow signs to the property.

Ms Hill said she heard a man yelling homophobic slurs such as "you faggots, you poofters" and that three large rocks were thrown through her windows. "It happened really fast and I was also incredibly terrified," she told Fairfax Media.

"I'm a bi woman and one day I might want to marry the woman that I love. We live on a main street and we just wanted everyone who walks past to feel that they were loved and supported. This is the first thing that I've experienced as blatant homophobia."

"Vote no to fags": A train carriage in Sydney was vandalised with homophobic graffiti. Photo: Imgur/ecarter6

"Vote no to fags": A train carriage in Sydney was vandalised with homophobic graffiti. Photo: Imgur/ecarter6

In total, Queensland Police said officers were investigating vandalism against four South Brisbane properties at the weekend, including three homes that were sprayed with swastika graffiti. All four properties were displaying rainbow flags, a police spokesperson said.

Meanwhile in Tasmania, police charged a 32-year-old man with common assault following an altercation on Friday with a 16-year-old in Hobart's CBD. Police said the incident occurred "during a marriage equality debate".

The Hobart Mercury identified the victim as 16-year-old Thalia Black. The transgender teen and her friend, Samuel Mazur, told the newspaper the alleged assailant put his hands around her throat and started squeezing.

"I was really scared, I don't feel as safe as I used to," she was quoted as saying. "I'm wondering if I'm going to get be attacked again."

Separately, a neo-Nazi group posted swastikas, images of Adolf Hitler and homophobic messages around the University of Tasmania.

The Coalition for Marriage, the official "no" campaign group, would not directly condemn the incidents but referred to a statement issued last week following the Abbott headbutt.

The statement said it was incumbent on all those seeking to participate in the debate "to do so in a respectful manner".

Lyle Shelton, managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, a leader of the "no" campaign", tweeted in response to reports: "I always condemn violence & uncivil behaviour."

Labor's spokeswoman for equality, Terri Butler, said the incidents were "abhorrent" and underlined why a "national opinion poll on people's human rights" was a bad idea.

"This is an inherently bad process," she told Fairfax Media. "You can try to ameliorate the worst aspects of it but you can't fix a process that's inherently wrong.

"At the end of the day, we're asking a majority to cast judgment on the human rights of a minority."

Mr Turnbull last week called for "calm and restraint" in the wake of the Abbott assault, and reminded campaigners they did not assist their cause by engaging in violence or abuse.

This story 'Vote no to fags': Outbreak of homophobic violence, vandalism first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.